This time around we had chance to chat with Aaron Wall, founder of SEOBook, to discuss the history of SEO, what SMB marketers should know about going broad versus going deep, and how Google reacts to good copywriting.
How did you get started in this business?
I started by creating a niche site and then discovered the idea of affiliate marketing. I didn’t have any savings to speak of back then and the barrier to entry in terms of the search relevancy algorithms was quite low. I had tried some cheaper paid traffic sources but ultimately the highest quality traffic was more expensive and SEO was sort of a way to get beach front real estate for cheap. The barrier to entry has risen dramatically over the past decade and for most businesses I probably wouldn’t advocate staring with SEO the way I did back then. In fact, I even shut down our membership site earlier this year. The SEO opportunity has simply disappeared in many markets as costs have escalated and search ads drive the organic results below the fold.
What are 3 quick things an SMB marketer can do to improve their SEO?
Try to gain awareness through channels other than SEO before investing heavily into SEO. Have a depth-first rather than breadth-first approach to SEO. If you are fairly unknown then either work hard to network offline, network online, and perhaps try to write for some other sites which have strong distribution within the markets you would like to reach.
How does good copywriting improve SEO?
Ultimately people either connect with what you say and do, or they don’t. If they don’t connect with you, then… they are unlikely to buy from you they are unlikely to recommend you (via links or word of mouth) they are unlikely to repeatedly visit your site (unless they *REALLY* hate you, or are a direct competitor).
What’s your take on whether or not a blog should be subdomained?
In most cases I think it makes sense to be on the root domain in a fold if it is technically feasible. And it should be possible in most cases via a reverse proxy set up. Where it can make sense to have isolation is if you think one part of the site might pull the other down. For instance if your store website has a panda penalty and many thin pages then perhaps a subdomain or a different domain for the blog is better. But ultimately the longterm solution there is to gain broader brand awareness for your company and try to work to better differentiate your product level pages or such.
Which are your most popular SEO courses for small business marketers?
Currently I have literally nothing for sale. At this point I don’t think it makes sense to try to be known as an SEO or serve the SEO market as a person who sells information and strategic advice. With as rigged as the search game is at this point one either has to be masochistic, unaware, or serving the companies the algorithms are biased toward promoting to want to be known as an SEO at this point. I guess in some markets outside of the US or some small geo-local markets SEO can still be a worthy investment, but for those who want to rank beyond a small geographic market in the US SEO is a waste of time unless they already have strong brand awareness. And Google is also pushing to move local search to a pay-to-play model. What’s more, Google is directly invested in various spam plays like LendUp, which use doorway pages Google warns they’d torch other businesses for using. They’ve used spam doorway pages for years in spite of Google warning others not to and SEOs highlighting the absurdity of the “talking out of both sides of their mouths” stuff Google is so famous for.
What do you read to stay on top of SEO today?
TechMeme for tech news, chatting with Cygnus on Skype and reading John Andrews on Twitter. There are also some great research tools like SEMrush & Ahrefs which I regularly used and recommended when I was more active in the SEO market.